Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page > Christmas in the Cotswolds for 1st timer: PLEASE HELP
Notices

Christmas in the Cotswolds for 1st timer: PLEASE HELP

Reply

Sep 17th, 2013, 09:51 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 623
Christmas in the Cotswolds for 1st timer: PLEASE HELP

This will be my 1st visit to the UK, so I need help! There is a possibility that we can stay in somebody's home in Cheltenham for 8 days over the Christmas period.We enjoy history, art, good food, interesting places, listening to locals, waiting quietly for the moon to shine on the lake ...

I have several questions:
1 I would prefer not to rent a car. Having said that, it seems to me that public transport to the beautiful smaller towns in the Cotswolds is difficult. Is there somebody reading this who did actually use public transport? Did it work for you?
2 I have tried to study the maps and distances. It looks as if Cheltenham is right at the western edge of the Cotswolds, with many prime places an hour or more away. Is this right? Is Cheltenham itself a good place if you just want to 'be there'? To me it looks as if it a huge sprawling town, without much to offer the one-time tourist. Am I wrong?
3 Having learned from you Fodorites, I now know that I prefer 'slow travel' - doing less and experiencing more. I am not sure if travelling daily for an hour or more to Oxford / Stonehenge / Bath / all the pretty small places, will work well, even if I do rent a car. Please comment. An hour or two to get there and then back again ... even if you start early it can become a long day. Or am I wrong?
4 What are the chances of having a white Christmas?
Thanks!!
kovsie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 17th, 2013, 11:01 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 59,855
>>It looks as if Cheltenham is right at the western edge of the Cotswolds, with many prime places an hour or more away. Is this right?<<

Yes - pretty much.

>>To me it looks as if it a huge sprawling town, without much to offer the one-time tourist. Am I wrong?<<

Actually Cheltenham is quite nice. A fairly posh town IME. A lot of Regency Bldgs. There is a popular race course and there are race meetings in mid December and over New Year. If one had to be car-less, Cheltenham would be a good place to stay (and free is ALWAYS good )

And since there is a good chance the weather will slow you down some days -- being in a large town w/ shopping/restaurants/museum/gallery will help fill the time.

Plus there is decent train service to places like Bristol, Bath and London. Not so good to Oxford -- driving there would be faster.

But I wouldn't think of all these "1 hour to get there and 1 hour to get back" driving journeys. Almost ANY route you take there are many interesting places/stops along the way. Villages just a few miles apart (or right next door to each other). So think of them as day trips where you head out - say to the northeastern Cotswolds and have lots of lovely villages in between.

>>4 What are the chances of having a white Christmas? <<

Absolutely no way of knowing until about Dec 23.
janisj is online now  
Reply With Quote
Sep 17th, 2013, 11:17 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,053
In reverse order:

4. White Christmases are very rare. In thirteen years here, I've had one, and that's a higher incidence than the average over the past century. BUT my microtown has been cut off from the outside world for 2-5 days for some point in Dec or Jan in each of the past three years. By England's absurdly pampered standards, winters in the Cotswolds can get very cold (almost as cold as exceptionally mild winters in most of North America or central Europe).

3. I can't comment. How do you travel to work?

2. Cheltenham is neither huge (pop 110,000) nor sprawling: we don't do sprawl in the Cotswolds. Even where it's physically possible, which it isn't in Cheltenham, it's illegal. Cheltenham is a pleasant, former spa, town with fine, often Regency buildings and the area's only 2* Michelin place (£25 set lunch, which makes it the best value 2* Michelin in Britain. Reasonable theatre with a pantomime at Christmas (the second best in the Cotswolds, since the Chipping Norton panto is universally acknowledged as Britain's finest). Gloriously situated, surrounded by green hills (which mostly stay green year-round, unless there's snow). Nice place to live and OK as a base (especially if free), limited tourist stuff in its own right. I'll guarantee you haven't got a town as pretty where you live.

Before Xmas, there's a fair amount of ad hoc concerts etc around the area, mostly in churches: one inheritance of medieval Christianity is an extraordinary network of acoustically-perfect, and often heart-stoppingly beautiful, auditoria in even the smallest village - with choirs and concert orchestras few places on earth can stretch to. By Boxing Day, that more or less all stops till Easter.

1. I live in the Cotswolds. I frequently don't use the car for a week or two, but then my train goes to Oxford, and Cheltenham's doesn't. There's bus map from Cheltenham at http://www.escapetothecotswolds.org....inghere/north/. Cheltenham has excellent train connections outside the region, some of which stop in a handful of nearby villages: go to http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/ldbboard/dep/CNM for current arrivals and departures, pressing on the destination to see where the trains stop
flanneruk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 17th, 2013, 03:50 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,081
I've stayed in both Cheltenham and nearby Winchcombe more than once and prefer Winchcombe (as well as a number of small towns and villages in the area). Parking is tough in Cheltenham if it's the city center and it's congested and confusing to drive through if you don't know the town. If it's a free place to stay, though, and not right in the center it could be good and then I'd opt for a car to see the countryside, pick up locally after arriving by train. Winchcombe is a short bus ride from the center of Cheltenham.
MmePerdu is online now  
Reply With Quote
Sep 18th, 2013, 08:53 AM
  #5
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,131
Hi, kovsie.

I stayed in Cheltenham at the George hotel and used public transportation - which I loved. However, I was there to do some longer walks, and not there over the winter. That being said, the buses were wonderful and always on time. You'll want to tell the bus driver where you're going, and if you're buying a single or return (to & from) ticket, and you'll want to have a coin purse full of the coins you need.

I used this website for information on how to get places.
http://traveline.info/

I visited Broadway, Chipping Campden, Snowshill, WInchcombe and a few other villages - and all should have bus lines. (I say should as I was usually dropped off in one village, where I walked to another to pick up another bus, etc.)

I would recommend Snowshill (lovely, picturesque place-plus Snowshill Manor) and Winchcombe (Sudeley Castle is fantastic and an easy walk from village, which in itself, is wonderful). Broadway is also charming, and if the weather isn't too cold, a walk up to the Broadway Tower would be nice, I would think - though I have never done this in winter as I have a low-tolerance for cold.

In Cheltenham, I thought the town was very pretty, with several Regency-era buildings. Plenty of shopping/food options, too.

If you can, have the full English breakfast at the George Hotel. Three years on, and I still dream about it!

Upon arrival, from Heathrow, I took the bus to Reading Rail station (it was 16 GBP), then a train to CHeltenham (CHeltenham Spa Rail Station). Walked the mile to the hotel. The bus stand (a circular loop of bus stops, all clearly marked with bus number, was a 1/2 block from the George Hotel.

Sounds like a great opportunity. I'd jump at the chance. Have fun planning!
ChgoGal is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 18th, 2013, 09:08 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 59,855
Just a note -- Snowshill is wonderful, but it is not open in December.
janisj is online now  
Reply With Quote
Sep 18th, 2013, 09:17 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,131
Ooh! Thanks, Janis!
ChgoGal is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 18th, 2013, 10:50 AM
  #8
ron
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,675
Sudeley Castle isn`t open either at that time of year.
ron is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 18th, 2013, 11:35 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,131
Oh geesh! Wasn't thinking the holidays would effect these places so much, but I suppose it makes some sense. Sorry, kovsie!
ChgoGal is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 18th, 2013, 11:43 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,053
"Sudeley Castle isn`t open either at that time of year."

But the rights of way through the estate (including to the Roman villa no-one ever seems to mention) most certainly are. So, BTW, are the footpaths around Snowshill. I think in about 5,000 days here, I've had about five - even in the deepest winter - when the Cotswold footpath system wasn't more or less accessible.
flanneruk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 03:17 AM
  #11
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 623
This is just an amazing forum! Thank you so much everybody.You have addressed one of my concerns: how much will the winter weather bog me down. I want to be open to experiencing WINTER in England, and I assume that will include cold wet days, limited daylight hours, and many places closed for the season. I also saw that Beatrix Potter Gallery is closed in December. I still believe that it can be a great experience. I would love to go for some of the walks, will it be too cold? In case I do rent a car, will there be ice on the roads? Maybe it will be better to go in Spring?
kovsie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 05:33 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 45,512
We had to make the very same choice a year ago. We wanted to go to the Cotswold in December to experience the English countryside winter (southern Calif sunshine year round can get a little blah! LOL). We were talked out of it with the idea that it would be much too cold and dreary. If you have the same opportunity to go in the spring it might be better, but either way I would still go. Part of the charm of England is the beauty, the people and the history. You can rent a car (or public transport) and go into places like Oxford, London, etc.
nanabee is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 08:56 AM
  #13
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 59,855
>>I would love to go for some of the walks, will it be too cold?<<

depends on what you mean by cold and if you are a wimp or not

Sure, there will be days when it is too wet that you might not want to venture away from the fire/a good book. But w/ the right clothing most days are definitely walkable.

If you have the choice to go in Spring instead - it might not be any drier, but the days will be longer and the countryside greener.

Winter is good; Spring is (usually) better; June is GLORIOUS (but could also be wet)
janisj is online now  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 10:25 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,053
"I would love to go for some of the walks, will it be too cold?"

Self-evidently not, or I wouldn't have been able to say "I think in about 5,000 days here, I've had about five - even in the deepest winter - when the Cotswold footpath system wasn't more or less accessible"

You clearly also missed my point about our benign, bracing wintry weather and the Arctic hell that most Americans expect to struggle through every year, and that all Americans assume is what winters are like outside those bits of North America it's only possible to survive in with absurd amounts of air conditioning.
flanneruk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 11:42 AM
  #15
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,081
"...most Americans...all Americans...North America..."

Usually something useful but always with a price.

If you want to do longer distance walking you might wait for spring as janisj says. I've always enjoyed late April & May, still can be wet but plenty of solitude still. But if you just want to go out for a stroll locally December should be fine too.
MmePerdu is online now  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 01:24 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,815
I can't imagine spending time in the cotswolds and NOT having a car... you will limit yourselves... chelterham is really a small city and as such lacks the real charm of the smaller towns... part of the fun is enjoying the tiny hamlets...

stow is magnificent with a touch of snow as is broadway..

the slaughters are not to be missed..

rent a car for full enjoyment
rhkkmk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 01:33 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 173
A pointer about short days - on 22 December, sunrise in London is at 8.04 a.m., sunset at 3.54 p.m. Cheltenham will be a couple of minutes later. So not a lot of daylight. Personally I would depend on public transport, trains and buses. Reliable, and no parking problems. And you might find that some of the money you are saving on accommodation could be well spent on taxis to the less easily reached places such as Oxford. Cheltenham is in a beautiful part of Britain and I'm sure you'll find plenty to see and do without racing around the countryside like there's no tomorrow.
Grindeldoo is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 02:19 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,081
Having spent more time, I think, than the average visitor in the region of the Cotswolds and also in Cheltenham I don't really feel I'm in the Cotswolds when I'm in Cheltenham. For me the Cotswolds are the smaller places and the countryside.

Mostly I walk and occasionally have a car. When it's a walking visit I stay in B&Bs a days walk apart which is the only consideration, that there's a moderately priced place to stay when I want to stop for the day and I've liked almost every place I've landed for the evening. When I have a car I stay out of towns, sometimes in villages but it gives me the freedom of staying anywhere and I usually choose the countryside on those occasions. My point is, I guess, one doesn't need to jump from famous-name place to the next famous-name place as if there's empty space in between. The area is lovely everywhere, even (or particularly) in places we've never heard of. So wherever you decide to stay I suggest you just wander. Whether by car or on a local bus you won't go wrong.
MmePerdu is online now  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 06:36 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 623
Thank you thank you!
Flanner - You are right that the stories I have read about England lead me to expect arctic conditions in the UK. I actually did take in your comment that winter in the Cotswolds get 'very cold ... as cold as mild american winters I think what bothers me is the combination of cold and wet. But OK, I hear what everybody is saying - it will be cold(ish) but this need not be a problem.
Janis - one of the reasons why I want to avoid going in glorious June is the fact that 1000s of other people will also find it glorious. I do not do well in crowds! How busy is it over the Christmas period?
Nanabee - I have the same experience, that people tell you how cold and dreary England is in winter. This is why a site like this is so refreshing - you get the advice of people who know what they are talking about. Maybe 'dreary' is more a state of mind.
MmePerdu - thiis sounds like my kind of holiday! This time however, I will stay put in one house and do daytrips.
The issue of public transport vs car hire: Like Scarlet O' Hara I will think about that tomorrow.
kovsie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2013, 07:40 PM
  #20
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 59,855
>>Janis - one of the reasons why I want to avoid going in glorious June is the fact that 1000s of other people will also find it glorious. I do not do well in crowds! <<

Misconception. British and European schools don't break until in July. Americans tend to think Summer/crowds start w/ Memorial Day. But June is truly still spring in the UK and there are really no crowds to speak of -- which is why May/June are my very favorite months in England. I lived on the other side of Oxfordshire from the Cotswolds for 5 years and there was something neat about most any month Jan thru Dec. But for walks/gardens and still no Chock-a-block crowds June simply can't be beat. And the days are REALLY short in Dec - REALLY long in May June.

There are school breaks, and the Bank Holidays in May - but it is easy to work around them. If gardens are at all of interest I'd go in May or June..
janisj is online now  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:07 PM.